Commercial inshore fishing activity in the British Indian Ocean Territory

A fishery has existed for a number of decades in the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) targeted at demersal species, principally lethrinids, lutjanids and serranids. It occurs on the banks and around the five atolls of the Chagos Archipelago. Historical catch and effort data relating to the fishery are available since 1977 from records of Albion Fisheries Research Centre (Mauritius), and since 1991 from BIOT Authority logbook records. A joint British/Mauritian observer programme related to this fishery has operated since 1994, which, in addition to verifying catch and effort data by species, has collected biological information on the most important species caught. This paper presents an analysis of the available research and fishery data from the bank reef fishery on the Chagos Archipelago to the end of 1997. In recent years the fishery has yielded catches of around 300 tonnes per annum, comprised mostly of lethrinids (60% of the catch or more), which are targeted in shallow water (30 50 m) on the banks. Fishing effort is sporadic, and fin fish catch rate data presently show no indications of overfishing. Biological reference points for management indicate the status of the resource and highlight certain localities where the need for potential additional management controls is greatest. Careful monitoring of the inshore fishery is a priority of the BIOT Authorities, and management objectives and instruments are reviewed annually. The primary management objective is conservation, whilst permitting Mauritian mothership dory hook and line ventures to fish as they have previously done. Existing management instruments are described.
Mees C , Pilling G , Barry C .
fish, demersal, mothership-dory, assessment, management, conservation, lethrinid, lutjanid, serranid